Date of Completion


Embargo Period



skilled linguistic action, distributed language, multimodal analysis, dialogicality, second language learning with digital games, World of Warcraft, ecological psychology

Major Advisor

Michael F. Young, Ph.D.

Associate Advisor

Dongping Zheng, Ph.D.

Associate Advisor

Manuela Wagner, Ph.D.

Field of Study

Educational Technology


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This research provokes an action-oriented understanding of second language (L2) learning, as illustrated in the dynamics of World of Warcraft (WoW) gameplay. L2 learners picked up affordances for learning to take skilled linguistic actions in authentic interactions with meaningful outcomes. Agency, orientation to sociocultural norms and pragmatic competence were distributed in real-time languaging as learners coordinated actions using embodied, material and linguistic resources. Two studies examined data from a course in which English as a Second Language learners and native English speaking (NES) college students played WoW and explored its culture. Frames of ecological psychology and distributed language were applied in multimodal analysis of three video recordings of gameplay by a group of three L2 learners and two NESs. Study 1, Recurrent Languaging Activities in World of Warcraft (WoW) Play as Affordances for Skilled Linguistic Action by English as a Second Language Learners, adopted Zheng’s (2012) Eco-dialogical model to explain players’ languaging dynamics. Recurrent gameplay activities afforded a range of communicative activities reflecting Common European Framework of Reference descriptors of L2 proficiency and conversational values realizing across L2 skill levels. Study 2, Distributed Language Learning in a World of Warcraft (WoW) Centered Course, adopted Steffensen’s (2012) dialogical system to consider how players balanced values during group play, improving coordination over time. Distributed gameplay elements contributed to sociocultural attunement, attention to linguistic form, meaning and pragmatics, and smooth coordination while course elements afforded community building. Players’ gameplay verbalizations became increasingly aligned over time, with higher alignment associated with more coordinated gameplay.